Sunday, July 5, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for July 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for June is...

"Memories about working on Shenmue I & II by various Japanese voice actors & project members".

In November 2018, when Shenmue I & II was released in Japan, gathered comments from several of the original members of the Japanese cast and development team, and asked them to share their memories of creating the games. Included were Masaya Matsukaze (voice & motion actor for Ryo), Ikue Ōtani (voice of Megumi), Tow Ubukata (scenario writing) and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (music).

We will be translating their comments into English in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Coming into 1999, the excitement around the upcoming release of Shenmue was growing ever stronger. The game had been gathering widespread interest, with Shenmue Premiere events being held in multiple cities across Japan from the end of the previous year, and the public had their first hands-on taste of Shenmue at the March 1999 Tokyo Game Show (TGS). Following this, the next major event at which Shenmue was shown was a multimedia event called "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" in early May 1999. SEGA pulled out all the stops in promoting the game, with video footage, stage events, merchandise, demonstrations, hands-on play and even a special "virtual exhibition" demo which ran on Dreamcast hardware. Magazine reports quoted Yu Suzuki as saying people could look forward to seeing significant improvements since the Shenmue demos shown at TGS.

In this post we'll recap everything SEGA lined up for Shenmue at the Digitaliland event.

Image credits: special thanks to PRS patron James Brown, our friends at Shenmue Master and to Kohji for their images & photos of the event.

Network Jungle

If you are wondering about the meaning behind the event's name...

"Network Jungle" is the name of an experimental project that was started by NHK Enterprises (one of the group companies owned by Japan's national broadcaster NHK) in 1997, to investigate how digital content and communications would shape Japan's society in the near future. Government ministries were also involved as sponsors.

Part I took the form of a special broadcast program on channel BS2 in 1997 that was called "Network Jungle: How Electronic Networks Will Change the World".

For Part II, a three-day exhibition event was organized to allow the public to experience the potential of multimedia and digital communications for themselves. A digest of this event was subsequently broadcast as a documentary with the even wordier name of "Network Jungle II: The Future is Coming to Your Home! Explore Digitaliland!" 

A few months later, in July of that year, NHK would broadcast a third documentary in the Network Jungle series, "Network Jungle III: a Vision of the Future! A New Digital Era", which documented the making of Shenmue.

Today's post is about the Shenmue promotion at the event produced for the second part of the Network Jungle series.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

The Official Shenmue Jigsaw Puzzle | Timelapse Video by James Brown

The Official Shenmue Jigsaw Puzzle | Timelapse Video by James Brown

The Shenmue jigsaw puzzle is one of the lesser-known pieces of officially-licensed Shenmue merchandise, released in 1999 ahead of the launch of the first game in the series, and there is very little to be found online in the way of information or even images.

But it's now possible to see the jigsaw up close, thanks to avid Shenmue collector and PRS patron James Brown, who has created a superb timelapse video showcasing the jigsaw and showing the start-to-finish process of solving and framing the jigsaw. The many hours of effort it took to finish can be enjoyed in minutes!

About the Shenmue Jigsaw

The jigsaw was released as a licensed product of SEGA Enterprises in 1999.
  • Size: 750 x 500 mm
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Manufacturer: Yutaka, with "PUZZLE COMPANY" branding
  • Box contents: bag of jigsaw pieces, general information sheet, glue & sponge.
  • Serial number: N3100-001
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Year of release: 1999
The jigsaw image is a composite of characters from the Shenmue series: Ryo Hauzki, Shenhua, Xiuying, Lan Di, Iwao Hazuki, Niao Sun, Chai and Ren. At the bottom right is the Shenmue logo, and a smaller YS logo.
Box cover
Box cover

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" [Part 3] | Jcgamer

Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" [Part 3] | Jcgamer

Welcome to part 3 in this series on the "magic rooms"  to be found within Kowloon's skyscrapers in Shenmue 2, in which we present the findings made by Jcgamer who has thoroughly explored the Kowloon rooms and taken screenshots of all the individual items found inside, and finally carefully sorted these into categories for our enjoyment!

The previous parts revealed the great variety the developers put into populating the rooms:
Today we turn our attention to the categories of Electrical Appliances, Bottles, Ceiling Fans & Light Fittings and House Plants.

Category: Appliances

The main types of electrical appliances to be found in the rooms are television sets and refrigerators. 

The fridges show the greatest variation, with different colors (white, green, red, yellow), sizes (full-size, half-size) and doors (one-door and two-door styles). The family photos taped to the front of one of the fridges are a nice touch.

The variation in the TVs is more limited, with some having cabinet doors underneath, but only a single style of set to be seen.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Yu Suzuki Celebrates His 62nd Birthday

Yu Suzuki celebrated his 62nd birthday.yesterday, on June 10th, and tweeted out a photo on his personal account.
Happy birthday to Yu!
Happy birthday to Yu! (Source tweet)
His tweet reads (translation):
Thank you everyone for your wishes!
I have turned 62.
I'll keep giving my best.
The icing message on the cake reads "WanWan Happy 62nd". The meaning of WanWan (わんわん) is not clear, but it means "bow wow" in Japanese. Yu was born in 1958 which is Year of the Dog in the Chinese Zodiac, so perhaps that is the connection..?

We also sent our own message of congratulations to Yu on behalf of the Shenmue fans, and we wish him an amazing year to come.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Shenmue I & II Sound Collection Online from SEGA

SEGA has today made the #Shenmue I & II Soundtrack collection available online!

The full collection of 40 songs can be streamed for free, or purchased through one of the many services.
Here is the title list in English:

Enjoy listening to the collection now on...

YouTube Music

The complete collection can be purchased for 1580 yen (about $15 USD).

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Bailu Village Secrets Part 2: Ranking Boards at Martial Hall | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Bailu Village Secrets Part 2: Ranking Boards at Martial Hall

Hello again everyone and welcome to part two of Bailu Village Secrets! If you missed it, in part 1 we took a look at the ema housed in Man Yuan Temple and the stories they tell about the village and its inhabitants.

Related post:
Today I want to focus on Martial Hall. Situated on a picturesque overlook with a gorgeous view of the Verdant Bridge, Martial Hall is the first building Ryo encounters in his descent from Shenhua's home down into Bailu proper. Here Ryo can practice his horse stance and one-inch punch on the wooden training dummies out front and polish his fighting techniques by either sparring with or challenging the five resident monks.  

Five Tigers
Five Tigers
Ryo starts out unranked and must defeat each monk in turn - from Red Tiger at 1st duan to Gold Tiger who stands alone at 5th duan – if he wants to reach the top of the rankings posted on the dojo wall.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Shenmue 3 Developer Interview with Implausible Industries

Following Shenmue III's release, the number of interviews and reports has naturally dwindled, so wouldn't it be great to hear some behind-the-scenes stories about the development process from people who actually worked on the game?

For Shenmue Day we present a new community interview with two developers from Implausible Industries, who were part of the development team that worked on the creation of Shenmue III and kindly agreed to answer questions from the fans about their experience. (A shout-out to mjqjazzbar from the Shenmue Dojo forums for getting the ball rolling on the idea!)

Shenmue 3 Developer Interview with Implausible Industries:

Implausible Industries is a Tokyo-based software house formed in 2013 by a small team of highly-experienced developers, who specialize in consulting and development of games on Unreal Engine. 

The questions for the interview were gathered from the fan community on social media, and the two developers answering this fan interview are:

Daniel Markiewicz
Shenmue 3 Role: Level Designer


Kees Gajentaan
Shenmue 3 Role: Shader Artist

(Also part of the development of Shenmue III was a third Implausible Industries team member, Chris Willacy).

The interview begins below.
Shenmue III logo
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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for June 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for May is...

"The 1999 NETWORK JUNGLE II Digitaliland Exhibition & the Shenmue Forest demo".

Network Jungle II was the name of an event held at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center from May 1st to May 3rd in 1999. It consisted of several different areas, which were called "forests" such as the Game Forest, Communications Forest, Forest of Education and Forest of Tomorrow. Its aim was to bring the world of multimedia to the general public by providing hands-on experiences. Shenmue was was previewed at the event, and it even had a virtual demo that ran on Dreamcast hardware, called Shenmue Forest.
We will take a look at this topic in more depth in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Izumi Takano Was Once Considered for Ryo's Love Interest

Izumi Takano, who can be found working at the Tomato Convenience Store in Wan Chai in Shenmue II, was once a candidate character model for the role of Nozomi Harasaki in the first game.

Izumi Takano at the Tomato Convenience Store in Shenmue II
Izumi Takano at the Tomato Convenience Store in Shenmue II
This was confirmed in a tweet last year by one of the former developers on the original Shenmue project team, who goes by the name of Morio Ashizuka. He wrote:
"I recall that the high school girl you fight in Shenmue II, Izumi Takano, was a rejected candidate character for Nozomi (if I remember correctly...). Which may be why Ryo looked at her so dreamily, lol. The reason the rejected Izumi Takano appeared in Shenmue II was due to strong campaigning by Mr. O from the Planning team. He is a big fan of ponytails!"
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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Suka Pass v1.3 Out Now | Fan-Made Shenmue Passport

The Shenmue World menu screen, recreated in Suka Pass
The Shenmue World menu screen, recreated in Suka Pass
Version 1.3 of the fan-made Shenmue Passport app Suka Pass, which we previewed here, has just been released and is available for download. A major new feature this time around is the All Moves Scroll section, giving information on all the kicks, punches and throws that Ryo has learned. And those who enjoy listening to the Shenmue music selection will also appreciate the addition of a progress bar to the music player.

A fine release trailer has been created by Jibby (check out his Jibmue YouTube channel here for more Shenmue vids) which highlights the new features:

SkillJim, from the Suka Pass project team, has also put together a comprehensive overview of the entire app:

The app is available for Android and iOS, and is of course completely free. Head over to the Suka Pass project site to download.

Link to download Suka Pass 1.3 (Project webpage)

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Four Unused Drink Can Textures in Shenmue

Unused Drink Can Textures in Shenmue

Japan is known for its numerous drink vending machines offering anything from a cool beverage to a hot soup. For anyone visiting the real Dobuita Street, for an even more authentic Shenmue experience keep an eye out for the machine that still sells cans of Coke at 1986 prices!

Shenmue (specifically, the first game in the series) recreates this aspect of Japan faithfully with a number of vending machines scattered around its world, from Dobuita Street to New Yokosuka Harbor.

Although players will be familiar with the sodas and coffee seen in the game, there is in fact some evidence that other drink flavors were considered while the game was in development in the form of an image file containing some unused can label designs is present in the game files.

We will take a look at the image in this post, but first let's take a moment to mention the difference in labels that can be found between released versions of Shenmue.
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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bailu Village Secrets Part 1: Ema at Man Yuan Temple | Guest Post by Dave Matthews

Bailu Village Secrets Part 1: Ema at Man Yuan Temple | Guest Post by Dave Matthews

Hello Everyone! First off I'd like to thank Switch for the opportunity to post on Phantom River Stone and to share this with you all!

This is going to be the first in a series of posts examining Bailu Village in detail. Shenmue 3 depicts Shenhua's childhood home as an idyllic, rural, mountain community with a long history; one in which just about everyone knows everyone else, and nothing much changes day to day. It's a small wonder then that the coinciding events of the attacks on the village stonemasons and the arrival of Ryo Hazuki is of such keen (if wary at first) interest to just about everybody.

One of the key features that made Shenmue so distinct when it first released was the fact that Ryo could talk to every NPC he came across. These NPCs often had unique ways of responding to Ryo that made them feel like real people with lives beyond their relevance to Ryo's journey. Shenmue 3 by and large continues this tradition. In Bailu alone every villager that Ryo can speak to (which is the vast majority of them) seems to have a unique response to almost every single topic of investigation. Often these unique responses shed light on the villagers themselves, their relationships with each other, and their life aspirations.
Bailu Village

In addition to conversing with the locals themselves, a number of physical locations throughout the village reveal even more details about its inhabitants; some of which are very easy to miss on a standard play through. It is these locations that I'm going to focus on starting today with Man Yuan Temple – and in particular the racks of wooden wishing plaques, known as ema, inside.

The History of Ema

The tradition of hanging prayer ema is actually a Japanese custom with historical roots in Shintoism. In the Nara period in Japan (AD 710 – 794) worshipers would donate horses as offerings to shrines in the hope that since the horse was revered as the vehicle of the gods (kami), the kami would be more likely to listen and answer the worshipers' prayers. Horses were prohibitively expensive for most Japanese people of that era however, and over time clay and wooden sculptures came to be used. These sculptures in turn evolved into wooden plaques with a picture (e) of a horse (ma).
A wooden wishing plaque (ema) with a picture of a horse.
A wooden wishing plaque (ema) with a picture of a horse.
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Friday, May 15, 2020

Suka Pass v1.3 Preview: All Moves Scroll

The Suka Pass fan-made app recreates the Shenmue Passport for mobile devices, and the development team has shared a preview of new features that will included in the upcoming release (v1.3).

One of the major features is a new section called the All Moves Scroll, which provides information on all the punches, kicks and throws in the game including the full descriptions of every move that were part of the original Passport. You can discover which moves "evolve" to a different form once they have been mastered, and observe both sets of animations.
Browsing the All Moves Scroll
Learning about a move

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for May 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for May is...

"Izumi Takano in Shenmue II was once considered for the character model of Nozomi Harasaki".

Izumi Takano, who can be found working at the Tomato Convenience Store in Wan Chai in Shenmue II, was one of the candidate character models for Nozomi Harasaki in the first game.

We will take a look at this topic in more depth in an upcoming blog post.

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Ryo's Leather Jacket & Patches | Analysis

This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.

Ryo is rarely seen without his trusty brown leather jacket (especially in the first two games), taking it off only to sleep, or to do some light sparring with Fuku-san in the Hazuki Dojo.

It is adorned with a number of patches - notably, the tiger on the back which faces the player for most of the game - but are these merely random designs? This is a topic that has been pondered by fans over the years, so

In this post we'll see how the jacket and patches were presented in early concept art, and consider the meaning or intention behind them, if any.

Ryo's Leather Jacket

It should be noted that the leather jacket itself was not present in early character designs

Shenmue has its roots in Yu Suzuki's original concept of a "Virtua Fighter RPG" (VFRPG) and this influence is apparent in the early artwork and development of the game including the character of Ryo who evolved from the Virtua Fighter character of Akira Yuki.

Going back to 1995, a series of Virtua Fighter artwork discs was released for the Sega Saturn, and the images of Akira show the white T-shirt and jeans combination that was inherited by Ryo.
Images of Akira from the Virtua Fighter CG Portrait Series (1995).

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Yu Suzuki Interview: Reflecting on Shenmue III and Future Plans [IGN Japan] | Translation

IGN Japan has published a fantastic new interview with Yu Suzuki, in which he reflects on Shenmue III and goes on to talk about his ideas and thoughts for a potential Shenmue IV. The interview was held by Esra Krabbe in mid-March at the YS Net offices.

The text below is a full (unofficial) translation into English of the original article on IGN Japan.

Good to See Yu Again

In mid-March, I met with Yu Suzuki for the first time in a while. Four months on from Shenmue III’s release, despite there having being no new announcement, I had wriggled my way into an interview.

On entering the YS Net offices, Yu-san greeted me with a friendly smile.

“It’s been a while.”

Of course, what I really wanted to do was to obtain even a small scrap of information about Shenmue IV. But just seeing Yu-san’s smile somehow made me feel happy.

Shenmue has been a great influence on my life, and the realization of Shenmue III after 18 years was an immeasurably significant event. As a game journalist, I followed its progress through to release, traveling to countries such as Monaco, the U.S. and Germany and interviewing Yu-san numerous times. But after the release, such opportunities had dried up.

Yu-san was just the same as ever. He answered my persistent questioning about Shenmue with an unwavering smile, and his comparisons involving racing cars (which are lost on me as I don’t even hold a driving license) reminded me of old times.

Most of all, however, I somehow felt a sense of relief to see him just as full of passion as ever. It turned out that his heart is set on continuing on with Shenmue to take the series towards completion, and there are also many other games he wants to make.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ryuji Iuchi's Music Commentary: Shenmue Play Through | Translation

Composer Ryuji Iuchi, who wrote over 100 pieces of music for Shenmue I and II, has recently started streaming a live playthrough of Shenmue on YouTube, from the Shenmue I & II remake.

In this post we'll pick out some of the comments and memories that Ryuji shares regarding his time developing music and sound for the game during the first part of his playthrough.

The stream starts with relaxing music welcoming viewers: Ryuji's beautiful "Village and Waterside in the Forest" which is full of Shenmue vibes and features the haunting sound of the erhu (played by Hiroko Suzuki).

Ryuji comments that although he purchased the Shenmue I & II software last July, he hasn't played it properly until now. He has even given the series the humorous subtitle of "Pretty much my first try at playing, despite being with the development team".

The whole playthrough is fun to watch though, and the way Ryuji takes the time to turn off the lights before leaving a room to save electricity, or knocks several times on the door of a house to hear Ryo's different responses, will be something many Shenmue fans can relate to!

Notes and translations follow the video.

The opening scene plays out with its dramatic musical accompaniment serving to build the tension as Ryo spies the black car and broken sign outside the Hazuki residence, with Ine-san collapsed in the garden. Ryuji notes that this music was composed by (Tadahiro) Nitta on the sound team.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Submit a Message for SEGA's 60th Anniversary

On June 3rd, SEGA will be celebrating their 60th anniversary, and they are inviting fans to take part in the celebrations by submitting a celebratory message (with an optional image).

Messages may be in Japanese or English and will be displayed on the official SEGA site from June 3rd, but submissions will be accepted up to June 30th. It is planned to display all submissions, if feasible.

A draw will also be held among those who submitted a message to win one of 60 limited-edition commemorative satchels, inscribed with a 60th Anniversary logo. Winners will be contacted for delivery information by email.

How to Submit a Message

The steps are simple, and the entry form has both Japanese and English.
  1. Access the SEGA site at and scroll to the bottom. Press the white button at the bottom of the page to go to the entry form.
  2. Select an icon from the 60 available options, which will be displayed with your message  Both Shenmue and the Dreamcast console are available, as well as a number of Yu Suzuki's classic arcade games.
  3. Enter a nickname to be displayed with your message.
  4. Enter your message text (up to 280 characters).
  5. [Optional] Attach an image.
  6. Supply your email address.
  7. Check the "Agree" checkbox regarding personal information.
  8. Click the Preview button.
  9. Click the Submit button.
  10. Done!
This is a great chance to show some support for SEGA and the Shenmue franchise, and perhaps be one of the lucky 60 winners of the commemorative satchel!

Remember, submissions will be displayed from June 3rd, with final cut-off on June 30th.

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

[Part 2] Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" | Guest Post

Following on from Part One of this series (Furniture, Sinks & Benches), we continue with Jcgamer's exploration of the various objects to be found in the maze of "magic rooms" to be found within Kowloon's skyscrapers in Shenmue 2.

Today's post covers several more categories including Wall Hangings, Clothing and Dolls.

Category: Calligraphy

Some of the residents of Kowloon Walled City have tried to bring a little elegance to the general filth and grubbiness by displaying framed calligraphy on the walls of their rooms.

Below are four pieces of calligraphy artwork found.

These are written with traditional Chinese characters.

yuc02 has kindly provided some possible interpretations of the characters and their meanings below:
Calligraphy #1:
The overall meaning is not clear, but the first two characters 典君 ("Dian Jun") may refer to the name of an extremely powerful bodyguard of Cao Cao, one of the 3 kingdom leaders in the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The bodyguard's name was Dian Wei. In olden times people addressed each other by adding 君 ("Jun") as an honorific.

Calligraphy #2:
The characters resemble 圣贤书 which is the name for a collection of textbooks by Kongzi (Confucious) and Mengzi (Mencius).

Calligraphy #3:
These characters appear to be 高阁才人 which literally have the meaning of a female official of a traditional dynasty, in a high-rise building.

Calligraphy #4
Written in traditional Chinese characters, this means "shielding against wind and rain".
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Sunday, April 12, 2020

[Part 6] Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip: Days Four & Five | Translation

A continuation of our series on Yu Suzuki's 1994 Research Trip to China. This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.

In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

Previous posts in this series of blog posts:
  • In Part One, we translated blog entries about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • Part Two is a magazine article in which Yu Suzuki gives own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • In Part Three, Yu's traveling companion, Kazunari Uchida, talks about how he first met Yu Suzuki and his curiosity to learn about the genius behind the man during the upcoming trip.
  • Part Four is Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five is Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu travels to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng, and arrives at Shaolin Temple.
We now pick up from last time, with Yu having arrived at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county.

Yu Suzuki: China Research Trip Journal: Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple is where Zen Buddhism was introduced by Bodhidharma, who traveled there from India. It is said that he developed Shaolin Kung Fu to protect himself while training from the wild animals inhabiting the area, as well as to ease the stiffness of his joints from Zen.

The main temple was set in a cool forest, and had a quiet atmosphere. Being a Zen temple, compared to the gaudier primary colors of other temples in China it appeared much calmer and unembellished.

What really brought home to me that we were actually in Shaolin Temple, was when we entered the Hall. The floor of the Hall where the monks practice Kung Fu was laid with paving stones, and all over it were deep grooves. We were told that these were formed from the repeated action of feet striking the ground. When we tried placing our feet onto a groove, indeed it was an exact fit. The floor was like a monument symbolizing the unlimited power of humans.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ryuji Iuchi: Equipment Used to Compose Music for Shenmue I & II

Composer Ryuji Iuchi was one of the core musical contributors for Shenmue I and II, creating over one hundred pieces himself including the iconic Shenhua's theme song, and he is also credited for his contributions in the credits of Shenmue III.

Ryuji Iuchi (screenshot from the video in the Shenmue III Kickstarter Update #21)
In his latest website post, Ryuji answers one of the many questions he has received from Shenmue fans: what equipment he used when creating the pieces for Shenmue.

Our translation of Ruji Iuchi's post starts from here (images were not included originally, and have been added for illustration).

I get a lot of questions about my past work through DMs or my blog's contact page, but it hasn't been possible to answer each one individually.

However, since my blog isn't updated very often (lol), I expect many people are probably wondering about some of the most frequently-asked questions and to that end, I decided to answer them in this blog.

I had been thinking of starting something on YouTube, maybe something like a chat-style vlog, but the environment isn't set up yet, so I'll stick to written words this time...

The question I'll answer this time is: "What equipment did you use when you made music for Shenmue?"

It was quite a while ago, so my memory is a little faint in places, but I'll answer as far as I can remember.

There were several composers in my team, so this is purely the equipment that I personally used myself.

Since the topic is about the equipment I used, this may not turn out to be a very long answer! I'll also include notes about how each was mainly used.

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for April 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the score was a tie! Switch stepped in with a tie-break vote and so the winning topic for April is...

"Unused textures in Shenmue: new drink can flavors"

Whenever Ryo is feeling thirsty, he never has to go far to find one of the many vending machine dotted around his neighborhood or over at the harbor. We have seen differences in the drink selection between the Japanese version of Shenmue I (which uses authentic Coca Cola branding) and the versions elsewhere in the world (which includes Jet Soda and Bell Wood coffee).

The new 'What is Shenmue?' video teaches us about jiu-jitsu and ...
"Ah, good".
There are also some additional drink labels that were not used in the final game, which can be found hidden within the game files.

We will take a look at these in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Shenmue Blue Pamphlet (Shenmue One Version) & Digitaliland Exhibition

One of the items received by Shenmue fans attending one the Premiere events held in Japan back in late 1998 / early 1999 (around a year prior to the game's release) was a large, tri-fold pamphlet with an eye-catching blue cover containing a wealth of screenshots and other art for the game, along with short explanations about its features.

One interesting fact about this pamphlet is that two different versions were created. In this blog we have previously talked about the Shenmue II themed version.

The other version, which is much less commonly seen, is a Shenmue I version and this what we will be looking at in this post. The images of the items in this post are courtesy of James Brown.

Before jumping into the pamphlet however, let's first pause to admire the special envelope it came in, which features concept art of Ryo on the front.

Envelope detail: the YS logo and SEGA's address in Tokyo.
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Monday, March 23, 2020

Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" Part 1 | Guest Post

The depiction of Kowloon in Shenmue II is memorable for its sheer scale and size, with a number of high rise buildings soaring up to the sky. Even more remarkably, especially for the time the game was made, is that a great portion of the rabbit-warren of rooms inside the buildings are actually accessible to the player, even if visiting them is not required to advance the game's story.

With Yu Suzuki's typical attention to detail, these extra "filler" rooms were not simply left empty, but were filled with all kinds of dilapidated furniture and various small items that evoke a lived-in feeling.

Long-time Phantom River Stone patron Jcgamer has undertaken a room exploration marathon to screenshot and catalog the wide variety of objects to be found in these Kowloon rooms, and in today's post we present Part One of his findings, which will continue across a number of posts.

Browsing these is sure to give an appreciation for the effort the development team put into crafting realistic-looking rooms that many players may pass by perhaps without even realizing the possibility of glancing inside.
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Monday, March 9, 2020

Submarine at New Yokosuka Harbor | Shenmue One Cut Content

The presence of sailors in the first Shenmue game is an accurate reflection of the influence of the US Navy Base that is located at the harbor in real-life Yokosuka. The warship docked at the far side of the harbor was also modeled on an actual ship that served in Yokosuka, and makes for a memorable sight as Ryo goes about his forklift job.
There was in fact originally going to be another large navy vessel in the game that might have increased this impact, namely: a submarine, which was to have been stationed along the warship.

Its inclusion would have been true to life, as submarines can often be seen around the real Yokosuka harbor.
A submarine at Yokosuka harbor.
The decision to remove it was likely made quite close to the game's final release, as it appeared in promotional footage as late as the release year.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for March 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic for March is...

"Ryo Hazuki's jacket: do the patches have any meaning?"

For any player of Shenmue, the patches on Ryo's leather jacket are a familiar sight, especially the Tiger design that constantly faces the player during normal gameplay. In this post we'll look at each of them more closely and investigate whether the designs and symbols are merely for decorative purposes, or whether they may have a deeper meaning.

Coming soon in a future blog post.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Shenmue Passport - Feature Article | 2000 Dreamcast Magazine Translation

We translate an article that was published in the Japanese Dreamcast Magazine back in February 2000, about the Shenmue Passport that came on disc 4 of the set of Shenmue discs. While some of its content (such as music and video clips) could be accessed offline, it also contained many features that took advantage of an internet connection such as global leaderboards and more. This article focused on explaining these network-specific features for the reader.

Note: some images are of reduced quality as they have been extracted from the scanned article. 

-- Start of article ---

Shenmue Passport

Shenmue's world is vast. However, even vaster than that is the world of the Internet. Shenmue Passport is a bridge that connects your Shenmue world to the world of the net. Don't miss the information published on the official site either!

The Internet Makes Shenmue Twice As Fun!

To all Shenmue players who are not connected to the Internet: unfortunately you're missing out! Why? Because 30% of the fun of Shenmue lies within this Passport.

For example, even if you get stuck in the game at night, you can get a hint right away. Or, learn more about the profile of characters that take your interest while playing. Or even see how your mini-game scores compare with users around the country... If you connect to the Internet, all of these things become possible.

Left: By reading in save game data, optimal support can be provided per user.
Right: Data is sent through the Internet so the content is always fresh!
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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Submit Your Questions for Shenmue 3 Developers

Call For Interview Question Suggestions

Would you like to hear what members of the Shenmue III development team have to say about their work on the game?

Stemming from a proposal in a recent Shenmue Dojo forum thread, I reached out to Deep Silver to see if they could help assist with approval to interview some of the developers that worked on Shenmue III, and to my delight, approval has been received from YS Net.

The developers in question are from Tokyo-based Implausible Industries, of which they are also co-founders, and have a great deal of experience in the game industry. From the company website:
"Before starting Implausible Industries, our members worked on many games of well-known franchises such as Driver, Fatal Frame, FIFA, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, No More Heroes and Final Fantasy. Our strong experience with Unreal Engine allows us to quickly prototype and efficiently develop top quality games in what we believe to be the best games development toolset."
For Shenmue III specifically, the end credits of the game list their respective roles in the project as follows:
  • Christopher Willacy: Level Designer
  • Daniel Markiewicz: Level Designer
  • Cornelis E. (Kees) Gajentaan: Shader Artist
In view of them being in an extremely busy period, the plan is for the interview to be carried out by email.

This is an open call to the Shenmue fan community for interview question suggestions! Any topic will be considered, but obviously most focus will be given to their work on Shenmue III..

Leave your questions for consideration below, by February 26th.

What would you like to ask them about?

Question submissions are now closed. Thanks to everyone who submitted!

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ryo's Footwear Habits Revisited | Shenmue 3

One of the many small details in the first game in the Shenmue series is the way that Ryo always makes sure to slip off his shoes when entering his home or the Dojo (with the prologue scene being the one notable and deliberately-made exception), adding a layer of authenticity to the world.
Shenmue I: Ryo removes his footwear when inside the Hazuki residence.
In Shenmue II, however, unlike in the first game Ryo does not remove his footwear at any time, even on occasions where it would have seemingly been natural for him to do so.
One explanation for the absence of footwear removal in Shenmue II may have been due to budget constraints, as it would have required extra cut scenes, modeling and animations. With the release of Shenmue III, we have the opportunity to observe how similar occasions are handled in the latest sequel.

Ryo's Footwear Habits in Shenmue III

We'll look at how two locations that involve situations where Ryo might be expected to remove his shoes, both being in Bailu village with its traditional customs and way of life: Shenhua's house and the house of Elder Yeh.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day from Joy!

Happy Valentine's Day!
This art was distributed on a card to attendees of the premiere of Shenmue: The Movie in Japan in January 2001.

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Baoding Balls | Guest Post by Hiki

Today's guest post is by Hiki, and introduces a traditional Chinese item for maintaining dexterity that features some familiar motifs.

Today I want to show something really interesting. I want to show you Baoding Balls or Healthy Balls.

My mother died in 2017, and these Healthy Balls was hers. Today I was looking at the balls and reading the instruction paper and I saw that this may have a connection with Shenmue. In my opinion, perhaps the Baoding Balls were the inspiration for Yu Suzuki to create the Dragon Mirror and Phoenix Mirror.


Synopsis of the Healthy Ball

Being a traditional product of Baoding City, the Healthy Ball is famous throughout China and all over the world.

The history of the Ball can be traced back as early as the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 D), when it first came out. Solid at the beginning, it was used to build up physical strength and to limber up the joints, as well as a tool for self-defense. It remained solid till the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 A D), when it was fashioned into a hollowed one with a soundboard inside. Since then, the Balls have been handed down from generation to generation.

They are also known as "Double Balls of Roaring Dragon and Singing Phoenix," for two balls are usually manipulated together, sounding different tones.

This is the part that I think has a connection to Shenmue, in my opinion. I think the Baoding Balls were the inspiration for Yu Suzuki to create the Dragon Mirror and the Phoenix Mirror.

I think that this is awesome. The Baoding Balls will be in my Shenmue Collection. I know this is not an item that appears in the games but I think it has a connection with Shenmue.

What do you guys think?

About the Author

Shenmue is my favorite videogame series of all time. Shenmue is so special for me and for many fans around the world, so I decided to create a YouTube channel called Shenmue コレクション (which translates as Shenmue Collection).

I plan to upload everything about Shenmue. I'm not trying to compete with other Shenmue channels, all I want is to create a beautiful collection of Shenmue videos to show my love for Shenmue and to help promote the series.

In this channel you will find Shenmue content of all kinds:, me playing the games, the soundtracks of the games, interviews with Yu Suzuki, me playing Shenmue songs on piano, me talking about Shenmue, me showing my Shenmue collection and much more.

In the word of Iwao Hazuki: "Your friends... Keep friends... Those you love... close to you..."

Thanks to Hiki for the post submission, and it's great to see another channel created in the Shenmue fan community featuring original content - we look forward to  performances of Shenmue pieces on the piano! Why not subscribe to Shenmue Collection on YouTube and keep an eye out for more.

Text originally shared on the Shenmue Dojo forums and submitted to this blog by the author.

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